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Anne-Marie Slaughter - Great Decisions

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Anne-Marie Slaughter is the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. She previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is the Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. She previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State.

Transcript

So what are the major schools of thought as to how we should or shouldn’t work with NATO in the coming years?

The question about NATO is an interesting one, because NATO as an organization is going through a pretty profound transition after the end of the Cold War and then after 9/11.

I really see NATO as the hub of a global security network, and that’s the view that the Secretary General Rasmussen put forward, that President Obama has put forward.  That there’s the NATO alliance with twenty-seven states that actually are allies and will come to each other’s defense; and then there are many global partners.  And they are part of an increasingly dense security network that can address problems around the world with an increasingly complex set of tools.

In an era of austerity and one where asymmetric warfare is becoming less and less of a threat, what decisions does the U.S. face in terms of our defense priorities?

The U.S. really does have to make some tough defense choices because no matter what happens with our deficit reduction, we are going to have to do the same with less, or do less with less, but think about it very strategically in terms of where we want to put our assets.

I actually think that in the 21st century, large land war is going to become more and more rare.  Nimble special forces types of operations or relatively brief deployments of small numbers of troops will be much more likely.

So I think we are at a moment where we can make some very smart choices, but it has to be done in the context of an overall global foreign policy strategy rather than, “well, this is expensive so we won’t do that.”

So I guess I’m just going to ask about the emerging threats like bio-defense, the idea of: Is the military capable of defending our economy now that there’s new types of attacks out there.  Are we in a position where we’re changing our footing quickly enough to defend against those things?

The range of new threats includes cyber threats, bio-threats, and a host of non-state actors who are more and more capable of doing damage.  In some ways we won’t know how well prepared we are until there is an attack, and there’s bound to be a major cyber attack at some point.

With bio-weapons, a lot of that depends on self-deterrence; in other words, it’s very hard to use bio-weapons without harming those who want to use them.  But I’m fairly confident that we have a military that is constantly canvassing a very complex changing landscape and doing the best job you can to anticipate.  But this is not a world in which you say: This is likely to happen eighty percent, and we’ll prepare for it; This is likely to happen fifty percent, and we’ll prepare for it.

It’s a world in which you say, these things could happen, and we need to build up our capability to respond very quickly.

What are the big policy choices we have facing us in 2013?

Well, some of the big policy choices in 2013 are really the same as 2012, in the sense that we are still going to be trying to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and we’re still going to be figuring out how we leave Afghanistan in a way that accomplishes the goal of basically eradicating terrorism on Afghan soil that’s aimed at us as well as building as stable of a society as possible.  So those choices are not going to go away.  Issues with respect to the South China Sea and trying to avoid a conflict between China and one of its neighbors will still be there. I do think, though, we’re going to be looking very hard at how we lead, again at a time where we’re having to make lots of cuts; how we build international institutions that really need reform; and I think a new president, or President Obama on his second term, will have another look at Israeli-Palestinian peace processes; and we’re going to have to decide what our overall posture is toward these new regimes in the Middle East, many of which will be Islamist.

Speaking of the Middle East, what choices do we have to make with our policy toward Iran?

With respect to Iran, our choices are dictated by what happens within Iran.  I think that President Obama and other countries, particularly the European Union but also Russia and China, have put maximum pressure on Iran. I think we’ve done as much diplomatically as we can realistically do.  And now the question is: Is there a bargain that allows Iran to save enough face, and the West – or the world, really – can be satisfied with?  That will allow us to get to a place where Iran can enrich for peaceful purposes, but we are not afraid that it is secretly building a bomb.

What choices are facing us in how we deal with the European debt crisis?

The European Union, I think, is actually in better shape than certainly the daily headlines would have you believe.  For the last couple of years, the euro was supposed to collapse at any moment, and somehow it’s still there.  In fact, the dollar-euro exchange rate is still fluctuating within a pretty normal band. So in my view, Europe is going to pull itself out of this crisis and is going to be much stronger as an economic actor as a result.  What the United States can do is to make very clear that we have supported the cause of European integration for decades, and that we see a strong and united Europe as a very important ally for us and a very important anchor of stability in the world.  I think we need to be more vocal politically about our investment in the European Union and  European integration, and that we’re not just neutral bystanders hoping that everything doesn’t’ collapse.

And we’ve see in the last year or two the U.S. making some choices about intervention.  When should the U.S. intervene with military power around the world?

I am a strong believer in the doctrine of the responsibility to protect, which was adopted by all the world’s nations in 2005, and says: If you are a sovereign nation, you have a responsibility to protect your citizens from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, grave and systematic war crimes.

I believe the United States and other nations, particularly the nations of a region where there is a problem, must be prepared to intervene where you’ve tried everything you can diplomatically, you’ve tried to prevent mass atrocities, genocide, ethnic cleansing; but a government simply makes clear that it’s willing to wipe out its people to stay in power. I think, long term, a world in which a dictator has to think twice before he starts massacring his own people is a world that is safer and better for the United States and for everyone. And by acting under this doctrine, we can get to a place where dictators will think twice.

How can we remain competitive in Africa, but avoid confrontation and conflict with China?

The question of Chinese investment in Africa and how the U.S. should respond to that is a complicated one, because China is really pouring cash and investment and infrastructure into many African countries.  On one level, that’s a great thing. These are countries that need roads and bridges and railroads, and if China is willing to pay for them, that is ultimately good for the people and ultimately good for the world.  On another level, that can lead to political strings that are really not in the U.S. interest.

So, in my view, we need to be very present in Africa – particularly through our private sector, and I think U.S. government can do more to help our private sector invest.  We can be partners with African governments more than resource-extractors; cause I also think China is in danger of developing its own antibodies with populations who have seen many countries come in and strip their resources and not really invest directly in the people of that country.
So the United States needs to be very engaged politically; we need to do what we can economically through our private sector; and we need to be patient because our own history says that a lot of that investment can create some powerful backlash.

What can or should we do to promote democracy in Myanmar?

The situation in Myanmar is a remarkable achievement really, I think, on the part of the Obama administration.

This country that has been closed for so long is opening up.  The idea that Aung San Suu Kyi would be a member of parliament, would be travelling, just a couple of years ago would be absolutely unthinkable.  So what we’re doing is helping, I think; it’s certainly not hurting a process that is unfolding in Myanmar.  I think we need to work very closely with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the ASEAN nations, those are ten nations, including Myanmar, who have  a direct stake in what is happening, and who are stabilizers, investors, and can monitor the process and engage on the smaller issues in a way that the United States can’t.

I mean, if there’s a problem with a particular ethnic group – and there is a tremendous amount of ethnic conflict in Myanmar – the United States really can’t directly, but we can work very closely with our ASEAN allies to make sure that that process is taking place in a framework of support but also of attention and monitoring.